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Ice On a Cold Slate Roof: The Dangers of Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them

Art Slate Roofing can help you identify and remove ice dams in Cambridge, MA, and the greater Boston area.

If you own a home in the greater Boston area, then you’ve probably heard of ice dams. Ice dams can cause a variety of problems, including roof leaks and water damage to the building’s interior. In extreme cases, ice dams can even lead to a roof collapsing under the increased weight of water and ice. When that happens, emergency roofing repairs and roof replacements become a necessity.

That’s why our first blog post is here to explain how ice dams form and what you can do to prevent them from causing more damage. Should you already need emergency roof repair in Cambridge or elsewhere in the Boston area, then give us a call. Our Cambridge roofing company specializes in repairing and maintaining slate tile roofs, as well as metal and flat roofs. Even better, we can address any roofing issues with our roof maintenance services and programs. With Art Slate Roofing LLC, you can sleep soundly with a secure roof overhead.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

So, what is an ice dam? As we all know, snow and ice can and will build up on your roof surface. Regardless of the roof type, ice dams are caused when the snow and ice accumulations on the roof melt during the day. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but mostly when an imbalance in temperature from the inside of your home meets the outside of your home.

An increase in sunlight hitting your roof, faulty insulation or inadequate ventilation of your attic space are all possible causes for ice dams. Regardless, the water runs down the slope of your roof until it reaches and refreezes on the eaves and gutters, forming a ridge all along the edge.

What are the Dangers of Ice Dams?

The formation of ice dams happens in increments. And if there’s one thing we know about human psychology, it’s that incremental problems are harder to recognize and resolve. But as it continues to snow and melt and freeze again, eventually, the ice on the bottom melts under pressure and further seeps under the tiles, metal or membrane of your roof.

Even a slight drip of water and ice can cause a wide range of problems for homeowners. Click on each topic below to learn more!

Ripped-Off Gutters
Starting with the house exterior, ice dams can ruin a gutter system. They will block and overload the gutter channels until they fall off the side of the roof. Without your gutters, filtering water toward storm drains becomes impossible, and the ground around your home will become inundated. From there, the water can flood basements and crawl spaces and weaken the foundation.
Roof Collapse
Ice dams are incredibly heavy, weighing about 20-30 pounds per linear foot. As this hangs over your roof edge for days or weeks at a time, the structure will begin to bend and then break. Before long, rafters will fail, and a hole will form, or the eaves will become a falling hazard. It’s especially dangerous because whatever is on top of the roof will also fall, causing exponential damage.
Attic Flooding
Because of the immense weight, ice dams don’t even need to collapse the roof, either. They will push water down into the tiles, membrane or metal, through the underlayment and into the attic, ruining any stored items and causing extensive structural damage to the ceiling. As the water pools, it further seeps into the insulation and sheetrock before causing the whole structure to crumble.
Mold Growth
Increased moisture without ventilation provides the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Black mold, in particular, can be a dangerous health risk to you and your family. It also means you not only have to contract a roofing company to fix the ice dam but a restoration company to remove the mold.
Roof Leaks
Contrary to popular thought, water is actually a rather sticky substance. It loves to stick to surfaces and prevent friction between two objects. This means water will stick, seep and stain the walls and ceiling in your home until it starts a severe roof leak. Any roof leak is an immediate cause for emergency roof repair.
Ceiling Collapse
Once enough water accumulates on the ceiling or in the walls, eventually, the structure will crumble. Ceiling collapse is like a roof leak dialed up to 11. Now not only do you need a roofing company to clear the ice dam, but you also need a contractor to restore the ceiling and clean up the fallen debris.

ice dam removal cambridge ma
Ice dam removal can be potentially hazardous. Sometimes it is better to let the professionals handle it.

How to Prevent an Ice Dam

Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to prevent ice dams from forming in the first place. Here are some tips you can do to prevent ice dams from causing damage in the first place. It might seem like a lot to do, but many of these tasks not only prevent ice dams but a host of other problems as well.

Forget about two birds with one stone, you’ll be knocking out half the flock by undertaking these tasks:

  1. Inspect your roof regularly in order to ensure there are no pre-existing holes or gaps in the tiles, shingles, metal or membrane. If you do find a gap or hole, call a professional like Art Slate Roofing for roof repair services as soon as possible.
  2. Make sure that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated, so that warm air inside doesn’t escape and melt snow on the roof’s surface. Calling an insulation specialist and getting your attic inspected can be money well spent.
  3. Create ice-melt socks; these items can be made with nylon stockings and filled with an ice melter like calcium chloride, potassium chloride or sodium chloride. Place them every 3-4 feet, vertical to the edge of the roof. Place one end on the gutter and one on the roof slope. These socks will provide a channel for the water into the gutter, preventing the formation of a dam.
  4. Clear the snow off your roof with a long-handled snow rake. This will prevent snow from accumulating and causing ice dams to form. You might want to stay on the ladder rather than climb onto the roof. Regardless, use caution.

If your time is limited, don’t worry. Art Slate Roofing can undertake roof maintenance for you. With our yearly plans, we ensure your roof is in tip-top shape before the winter season starts. Once a roof accumulates two feet of snow, the snow removal should be the first thing you call for!

Need to Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof? Our Team Can Help You Blow Off Some Steam!

Of course, once an ice dam forms, you’ll probably need professional roofing services in order to clear the problem. Ice dams are notoriously dangerous items to clear as they combine the perils of snow, water and ice, usually on a sloped roof. Safety becomes paramount.

It’s not as simple as using a hose and rakes to clear snow from roofs. In fact, using running water can actually cause shingles and tiles to crack because of how they fracture the ice almost immediately; here at Art Slate Roofing, we use steam machines to gently melt the ice without causing damage to the roof. They can also melt snow and ice in hard-to-reach places without the need for intensive labor or special tools, meaning less time and money spent.

Our skilled team uses these tools to provide advanced roof maintenance during the winter months, ensuring the safety of your roof and home. If you need ice dam removal or emergency roof repair in Cambridge or the greater Boston area, call us today at 617-913-1130. Our qualified technicians are standing by to help you blow off steam and keep your home safe from ice and water damage.

Thank you for reading our first blog post, and we hope you stay safe and warm during the winter weather!

Posted on by Art Slate Roofing, LLC
Ice On a Cold Slate Roof: The Dangers of Ice Dams and How to Prevent Them

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